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The Megamusical (Profiles in Popular Music) Hardcover – November 16, 2006
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""Stern's scholarship is at its strongest as she renders a rigorous definition to the term 'megamusical' itself... The Megamusical offers broad discussions of production history, commecial success, social environment and, especially, the compexity of the scores of these plays."" ―Studies in Musical Theatre, Aug. 2008
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Her clear, dynamic prose keeps readers moving through the book, although a few of the denser passages on musical theory are a bit of a slog for non-musicians. (There were a few "oh, yeah" momemnts, however, particularly in her exploration of "Phantom"). I did enjoy reading the narratives on the shows' history, significance and critical reception. Sternfeld is not uniformly approving of what Lloyd Webber and Schonberg did in these musicals, but she does bring out enough depth to make me want to hear them again. I think she does a fine job at defining a subgenre of musical theater, particularly since the genre itself seems to have sunk with "The Pirate Queen." Megamusicals created fantastic worlds through state-of-the-art tech, broad themes and sung-through scores, as Sternfeld and her predecessors, cited at length in the narrative, teach us. You can appreciate the artistry of some of these shows without giving up your allegiance to Sondheim.
Megamusicals might be something that we may tend to take for granted, but Sternfeld writes her book in a fair, impartial and yet affectionate way. She defends the genre, even admitting that it may be flawed, but argues that megamusicals are much more than spectacle and money. I really like the way that she analyses each megamusical in detail and shows what makes them work. This is done not just through the themes of the show, but also through the musical motifs that make up the scores of each musical. As an ardent fan of CATS I found her analysis enlightening, as if she walked us through the score and the show, to show that there was much more to this Lloyd-Webber musical than just Memory. I also enjoyed her analysis of Les Mis and Phantom, and I particularly liked how she defended Les Mis as a strong score in its own right. But there's much more to the megamusical than the Lloyd-Webber and Boubhil-Schonberg successes. She did an excellent job of chronicling how Disney entered the fray, and analysed some homegrown megamusicals. Even if some shows are still running, this book more than satisfies a musical theatre fan's need to read about this genre of musical.
In thort, this is such a wonderful book about the blockbuster musicals that dominated Broadway and the West End. I know it may be flawed in some parts but it's really an enjoyable, accessible and affectionately-written book. It has made me want to revisit some of these scores again, while reaffirming my love for CATS. Hopefully someone will write more substantive books on these musicals in the future.